Babylon ruins added to Unesco list
The ancient city of Babylon, first referenced in a clay tablet from the 23rd century BC, was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site on Friday, after a vote that followed decades of lobbying by Iraq.
The vote, at a Unesco World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, made the ancient Mesopotamian city on the Euphrates river the sixth world heritage site within the borders of a country known as a cradle of civilisation.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said the city, now an archaeological ruin, was returned to its “rightful place” in history after years of neglect by previous leaders.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also welcomed the news. “Mesopotamia is truly the pillar of humanity’s memory and the cradle of civilisation in recorded history,” he said. The government said it would allocate funds to maintain and boost conservation efforts.
Babylon, about 85km (55 miles) south of Baghdad, was once the centre of a sprawling empire, renowned for its towers and mudbrick temples. Its hanging gardens were one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar II.
Visitors can stroll through the remnants of the brick and clay structures which stretch across 10 square km, and see the famed Lion of Babylon statue, as well as large portions of the original Ishtar Gate.
As the sun began to set on the crumbling ruins, activists and residents flocked to the replica Ishtar gate at the site’s entrance to celebrate what they called a historic moment.
“This is very important, because Babylon will now be a protected site,” said Marina al-Khafaji, a local who was hopeful the designation would boost tourism.